Earthwatch’s education team were recently invited to Walthamstow Wetlands - Europe’s biggest urban wetland nature reserve to deliver citizen science training to London Wildlife Trust volunteers and educators as part of a Discover Earth Hub Day. A Discover Earth Hub Day brings teachers and informal educators together offering ideas, activities and inspiration as part of a half-day workshop to introduce the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), hands-on experience of citizen science projects and how to embed these into the curriculum and learning activities for young people with a chance for skill-sharing, peer-learning and exploring methods of outdoor learning.
Walthamstow Wetlands contains ten reservoirs built between 1863 and 1904 which are now operated by Thames Water and provide clean drinking water daily to a third of London (3.5 million people). The wetlands harbor a wealth of wetland birds and aquatic species and classified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The Walthamstow Wetlands project encourages people of all ages to visit the wetlands by creating access and educational opportunities. The project is managed by London Wildlife Trust in partnership with Thames Water and London Borough of Waltham Forest with funding in part from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
In the morning sunshine, Myfanwy Lloyd, Outdoor Learning Officer for London Wildlife Trust, gave a tour of the sites to our collected team of teachers and forest school practitioners. It is difficult not to be inspired by the beauty and scale of the site. Many original features are preserved with a viewing platform overlooking the wetlands, a meadow and woodland areas, perfect to connect people with nature and make links to citizen science easily in an area of urban London which is restricted in terms of space for nature. Here Myfanwy shares her passion for outdoor learning, which she developed further last summer during a Earthwatch’s Teach Earth team in Wytham Woods.
Myfanwy delivered a thought-provoking Forest School training session highlighting the value of Forest School pedagogy in developing young people’s confidence and creativity outdoors. This was followed up by Kat delivering an interactive session about the United Nation Sustainable Development Goals challenging participants to identify what goals they felt were the most important and articulating specific actions individuals and communities can make for a sustainable future.
London Wildlife Trust volunteers then delved into the scientific research of both FreshWater Watch and The Tea Bag Index (a citizen science project focused on mapping soil decomposition rates by burying tea bags in the ground). The Coppermill stream and two of the reservoirs were chosen as sites to demo FreshWater Watch sampling. Myfanwy explained that the Coppermill stream has been undergoing restoration by Thames Water to improve the water quality for water voles and using Freshwater Watch is a fantastic way to monitor change over time. Myfanwy explained
“During the summer holidays we dedicated a week to celebrating the water on site and Freshwater Watch was the perfect way to get visitors involved in understanding the complexity of the water on site. Freshwater Watch enabled people to see that water quality is far more than just how clean it ‘looks’, and the participants were able to understand the relationship between environmental factors and the animal life present as we ran a pond dip alongside the testing.”
Alongside creating stewards of their local water bodies, FreshWater Watch aims to educate and train teachers to engage the next generation to better understand the freshwater challenges through Teach Earth and Discover Earth. Wim Clymans, Freshwater Watch project lead commented
“Clean water is such a precious and vital resource – however too often taken for granted. It is extremely motivating to see teachers and educators taking up the challenge to reconnect the younger generation with nature, while laying the early foundations for scientific literacy among our future business leaders, policy-makers and scientists.”
To close a very inspiring day, the group reviewed citizen science projects and brainstormed ways they could be used in their own educational settings, identifying challenges and how they could be overcome. Participants described the sessions as ‘motivational’, ‘inspiring’ and ‘fun’ and enjoyed the hands-on nature of citizen science projects
‘The whole day was really thought provoking and engaging; I came away buzzing, thinking about how to use everything I’d learnt in the future.’ Anna, volunteer
You can find out more about Earthwatch’s education programme by visiting our website and we will soon be advertising our Teach Earth weekends in 2019. If you would like to visit Walthamstow Wetlands, you can find more information about the site here.